- Justine Blanford has lived in various parts of the world, but she moved from the United States to Twente to work as a professor at the University of Twente.
- She moved to Enschede with her husband and two children (12 and 15 years old) and started a new adventure together.
- Both children are students at International School Twente, a school with much personal attention.
Blanford (50) does not have an easy answer when asked where she is from. “I was born in Trinidad and Tobago and raised in Suriname and England. I also lived in the US for 11 years with my husband and children before moving here.” Blanford set foot in Enschede for the first time in 2019. She already knew then that she would be working as a professor at the ITC faculty at the University of Twente the following year. “A vibrant city, bigger than what we were used to in Pennsylvania. But being close to nature appealed to us too. It was exactly what we were looking for. And we already knew that it would be easy to bike around in Enschede. We lived at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains before and would need the car for almost everything. We don’t anymore, fortunately.”
Fortunately, the corona pandemic did not spoil the Blanford family’s adventure, but it did create uncertainty. “Which flights can we take? Can we travel between the US and the Netherlands? It complicated our mission, but we stayed positive. We arrived at a desolate Schiphol and then a deadly quiet city a year ago. That was not how we had come to know Enschede.” Blanford praises the Expat Center of WTC Twente and her faculty for their help. “The Expat Center helped us a lot with all the paperwork and on a personal level. The same goes for the ITC. I was immediately a part of a warm, international community of like-minded people. We could also rent a house with a garden from a colleague, so we got through the quarantine period just fine. We have since bought our own house. With bicycles, of course. Those were our first purchases.”
Blanford is an asset to the region and the UT on a professional level. She has many years of experience in her field: geo-health. This involves the integration of geographical information, technology and spatial concepts into epidemiology. “I focus on a better understanding of diseases and health risks. This field was a technical niche for a long time, but that is changing. Real-time data and large datasets now play an important role. Global corona dashboards, which provide insights into infections, have accelerated geo-health. For example, I am setting up a new education programme at the ITC to build knowledge and capacity in Africa and Asia. This is precious work. I feel like we make the world a little better by doing this. We are making a difference in and from Twente.”
Blanford compares the ITC to other (academic) institutions for which she has worked and is absolutely certain. “The ITC is a gem and the best-kept academic secret of Twente and perhaps even the Netherlands. The faculty is highly regarded worldwide but operates in niche markets. Do I want this to change? Yes and no. Modesty and focus suit us in certain ways, and it strengthens the community spirit, in my opinion. We could, however, be a bit louder in our dealings with investors, for example.”
Back to her private life. Or rather, her family’s. Blanford’s children are 12 and 15 years old. You might think this is not an ideal age for leaving hearth and home and starting a new life. Justine: “This went very well. International School Twente (IST) played an important part in that. They feel perfectly at home and have quickly become friends with other students from England, Thailand, and Greece. They are taking extra Dutch courses and doing surprisingly well.”
International School Twente’s mission is to prepare international world citizens for a changing world. Students of all ages from various international backgrounds are taught here and become the talents of the future. Justine: “IST provides a lot of personal attention. I could not have wished for a better learning environment for them.”
And her husband? “Simon also enjoys it here. He immediately became a hockey trainer at hockey club EHV in Enschede. Our children play hockey there, too. Sport unites people, as you can see in America, too. We also cycle a lot together and go to the market in Enschede every Saturday. We hope to learn the language even better soon and enjoy more activities in Twente. We were surprised by how the people here celebrate New Year’s Eve. What a spectacle. That is very promising.”
Date: 5 August 2021 |
Source of tekst: INN’twente |
Author: Jochem Vreeman
7541 WG ENSCHEDE 053 - 2068 035 twente.com/organisaties/international-school-twente